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has a cast in one eye, that Miss B. has a mean mouth, that Miss C.'s figure is dumpish, that Miss D. waddles? No. Yet we need not look beyond these elementary reasons to know why we have not in England to-day a really great actress. Henry Irving was nearly a great actor because if Danish Hamlet, English Charles, and French Louis were not each exactly like Henry Irving, then so much the worse, one felt, for the three of them. He imposed a romantic, flamboyant, and overpowering personality upon each and every part. Yet critics of the day insisted, and rightly insisted, that this actor cut up verse like Mr. Jingle, that in moments of passion his voice rose to a scream; and then, of course, there were the legs! Yet if not a tragedian, Irving as a melodramatic actor ranked with Lemaître, whose murderers-I would go to the stake for it-cannot have exceeded the Englishman's in their power to terrify. But that Irving, with his physical disabilities, could have been the equal of Kean or Talma, I cannot believe. There is no player, man or woman, on the legitimate stage to-day, with the possible exception of Mrs. Campbell, who has sufficient personality, magnetism-call the quality what you will-to make the great actor or actress. Nobody living, except Lauder and Chaplin and that is why I was so careful to use the word "legitimate"-can "fill a doorway." Arthur Symons tells us that when Sarah was about to appear one had an "obscure sensation of peril, such as one feels when the lioness leaps into the cage, on the other side of the bars." Irving had this power, and
so too had Mrs. Patrick Campbell. At her best, in her great days, you knew her for a great actress before she opened her mouth. In this sense Bernhardt, Irving, Janet Achurch, and Mrs. Pat are the only "great” players upon whom it has been my privilege to set eyes.
Here one would say something on the old question as to whether the actor who subdues his part to the romantic splendor of his own personality is as great an actor as the player who can abstract his own personality and build himself up into a new man with each new part. Is the "great" actor really an actor at all? How shall we rate Coquelin, whose disguises as Monsieur Jourdain and Cyrano would have defeated Scotland Yard? Or Tree, each of whose metamorphoses had a separate finger-print? Or Laurence Irving, who could be more Japanese than the Japanese, yet made the perfect English justice of Shakspere's time? Or Matheson Lang, who can ruffle it with the Borgias or take tea with Celestials? Or Martin Harvey, whose Burgomaster is as far from his Pelléas as dwellers upon earth are from people on the moon. Or Frank Cellier, who can fill both the mental and the physical eye with his Falstaff, yet dwindle to a Peter Quince whose skin hangs about shrunk limbs? To my mind this is superb miming, and, unless something of the heroic quality of the great actor accompanies it, not of very much finer accomplishment than the "protean” actor who presents-God save us— Uriah Heep with the aid of a red wig and Micawber by means of a cardboard dome. But the "great" actor
must have some admixture of the mime. A pair of legs and a voice will not bring us to the end of both Coriolanus and Shylock. The point is one which every playgoer must decide for himself. Would you rather say, "Here's that splendid actor again; I wonder what character he's supposed to be this time?" or, "That's the best Mercutio or Torvald Helmer I've ever seen; I wonder who the actor is?" My own feeling is that the heroic "swell of soul" is only to be obtained in the first category. To give maximum point and beauty to Hamlet's soliloquies, even in your own person, is a greater thing, surely, than to gum a beard on to a downless chin, or play the lover at ninety. Each performance may be a hundred per cent efficient; the comparison to be instituted is not between the achievement but between the things attempted. A perfect fifteen-hand roadster will always beat a perfect thirteen-hand pony, and in art we may equally well say "a good big 'un will always beat a good little 'un."
I am not going to pretend that the great actor is not sometimes led by his own romantic splendor into some mighty queer difficulties. He can never be, or allow himself to pretend to be, at anything less than maximum magnificence. He must inhabit the mountain-top and may not condescend to the slopes. He is the sun at high noon, and in his world it can never be four o'clock. His smallest offerings take on the air of princely largess, and if he has a trifling favor to ask, he will bend a princely knee. He will even carry this into his private life, in Elliston's manner. There is a wicked story about our noblest actor and an invitation to
lunch. The guest invited said he could come. "God bless you,' replied our nearest approach to a tragedian in his deepest voice, and with the unction of Charles I on the scaffold taking leave of Bishop Juxon. It is the same with actresses. Take Mrs. Campbell's Hedda Gabler and compare Ibsen's stage-directions for the presentment of this under-sexed, Northern heroine with Mrs. Campbell's temperamental Southern beauty. Hedda's steel-gray eyes "express a cold, unruffled repose"; whereas Mrs. Campbell's blazing orbs are the twin craters of a volcanic temperament never less than ruffled and knowing nothing about repose. Hedda's hair is "of an agreeable medium brown, but not particularly abundant." Compare our beauty's raven locks, the aura of some flaunting Gipsy. Could that Hedda have endured Tesman with his fearsome slippers? Would she not have thrown them at Tesman's silly head and herself at handsome unscrupulous Judge Brack? Yes, Mrs. Pat's Hedda would have quickly shaken Christiania's dust off her shoes, affirming, good female Coriolanus that she was, the existence of a world elsewhere. This Hedda was a glorious performance by one who could never by any possibility be or look Ibsen's heroine. But, frankly, I would rather see a play spoiled by Mrs. Pat than made by a lesser actress. After all, one can go home and read the play for one's self.
The bigger is greater than the less, and, conversely, a thick ear is among the minor shocks that flesh is heir to. If it were not so, then Sir Gerald du Maurier could be ranked with the biggest of the shining ones who have
used their stardom to eclipse their parts. Like those others, du Maurier is a king of infinite space; it is the range of character portrayed which must to-day be confined within the nutshell. A sort of hypernaturalism has become this realist's god, in comparison with which loyalty to the old optique du théâtre is to qualify for Partridge's admiration. Yet Kemble, who was always Kemble, ruled the world; and it is to modern preference for Raffles over Richard that the kingdom of the later actor owes its shrinkage. Du Maurier has been playing Raffles or its equivalent for twenty years, and will, one trusts, go on giving us that exquisite impenitent grace for another twenty. This artist's virtuosity may be a cadenza upon one note, but it is a fine cadenza, finely played.
If the grand school of acting has passed away, another has succeeded. The age is now definitely that of the intellectual actor, of the player who is rather than the player who does. Earlier on I used a cricket simile which I knew to be unsound. The unsoundness consisted in this, that the modern actor's wicket is a hundred times more difficult than that of his compeer of a hundred years ago. To be Gregers Werle or the Rev. James Mavor Morell is, in a different way, as big a thing as to spout Coriolanus; to argue every inch of the journey to the stake with Joan is as vital as to curl up on a Louis Quinze sofa with Marguerite Gautier and die of consumption. What, one may ask, would Kean have made of John Gabriel Borkman, or Macready of Pirandello's Henry IV? Miss Sybil Thorndike and Miss Edith Evans may not be "great"
One would even say that the age is for the intellectual play as well as for the intellectual player if the current of taste were not at the same time moving just as obviously in the opposite direction. One may ask pertinently here how far the critics are responsible for, or can affect, public taste in drama. The answer is simply that they do not affect it, never have affected it, and never can affect it. A nation which should choose its theater-going according to its dramatic critics would be an intelligent nation, and it has been sufficiently pointed out that we are not Germany. "Thank God!" we add. But can it be doubted that if Germany had won the war the builders would by now have been putting the slates on the Memorial Theater at Stratford, and the State Theater in Trafalgar Square would have been opened by an august personage on a white charger?
Who, let us ask, takes criticism seriously? It cannot be the actors, since they take no notice of it at all. "Criticism?" said the leading lady in the musical comedy. "Who the hell wants criticism? Praise and plenty of it is good enough for me.' And even when you praise actors it appears that you don't praise them enough. Hector Berlioz tells the story of an opera singer about whom one of my profession said that her eyes resembled Vega and Aldebaran, her hair the Coal-Sack in the Milky Way, her waist the belt of Orion, and her voice the Heavenly Choir.
Does the public take criticism seriously? You may consider the public in two ways. You may divide it into two sexes, or into people who have money and people who haven't. Let us take the question of sex first, realizing that three fourths of every audience is feminine, and at matinées nine tenths. Is it not true, as Mr. Ben Levy says in "This Woman Business," that woman is "impervious in the mass to ideals" and I would add ideas-also that she is "a confused thinker, at once cynical and sentimental, and unable to appreciate where the personal element is lacking?" That is a damning indictment. It is quite sufficiently answered later on in the play when Woman justifies her position in the whole scheme of things by the mere statement that she is the mother of the human race. But I am not concerned about the position of Woman in the general scheme; what bothers me is her influence in the theater. And there I think that it is perfectly true that she is impervious to ideas and unable to appreciate where the personal element is lacking. I remember lunching with a man of science and his charming wife. We were discussing some abstract question, I forget what
something about purpose and design in the protoplasm or the survival of personality in the amoeba. I turned to my hostess and asked for her opinion. She replied: "I don't think like that at all. I never can think about anything abstract. All I am thinking about now is a tall thin man in a blue suit talking nonsense to a short stout man in a brown suit." Women in the theater are like that. They are incapable of seeing through the charm and talent of an actor or actress to the idiocy of the play beneath. Now, criticism is less than half concerned with any particular actor or actress. The player is transient, the drama permanent. Therefore the critic, being more deeply interested in the play than the player, devotes most of his attention to the former. And the woman reader who has spent the evening wondering whether she would look as nice as Miss Gladys Cooper if she possessed her frocks cannot understand what the poor fool in the morning paper is bleating about.
Then take the case of Valentino. What was the reason of this film actor's extraordinary success? The question has baffled even Mr. James Douglas, who normally can rhapsodize over anything and everything, from prize guinea-pigs to yesterday's sentimental disemboweler of his paramour. Yet Mr. Douglas does not know, and cannot find out, what it was that women saw in this "rather commonplace and ordinary young man who looked ridiculous in plus fours." To the male way of thinking, Valentino looked ridiculous in whatever he wore, plus or minus, toreador's cloak or the dirty blanket of a sheik. No costume could, to
masculine eyes, conceal the Soho waiter. This movie star had neither the genius of a Chaplin, the charm of a Barthelmess, nor even the virility of a Fairbanks. What, then, was his secret? The secret lay not in Valentino but in the women who themselves registered the emotions he was supposed to express. Women of all classes, from the duchess downward, adored him. Whenever a Valentino première was announced, the most expensive cars lined the street, showing that our feminine betters equally with their worsers adored the foreign mountebank. For Valentino the actor they cared nothing, for Valentino the man, everything. The average woman, applauding John Barrymore, does not care whether he is playing Hamlet or Sydney Carton: her heart tells her that Jack is a far, far betterlooker than she has ever known.
One would definitely say that what, in the cant phrase, is "wrong with the theater" is the preponderance of women in the audience until one remembers the men. When I think of what my sex likes in the theater I declare I cannot find it in my heart to blame the other. Indeed it seems to me that this division into sexes is a foolish one, and that we must fall back upon our other subdivision, that of money or no money. There I must lay down an axiom, which is that people with money have no esthetic intelligence, and conversely that those possessed of artistic feeling never have any money. There is no reason why this should be so any more than there is any reason why Mount Everest should be so many thousand feet high and the Pacific Ocean so many
hundred feet deep. It just is so. Bloomsbury is crammed with intelligent people starving in garrets. Mayfair is full of millionaires bursting with food and drink, driving down to the theater in Rolls-Royces, and smoking cigars rather longer than the prize asparagus which they have just devoured. And when was understanding given to men of money? The expensive people may be seen at any first night of any play at a West End theater. But on the night of a première at the Old Vic, is the Waterloo Road thronged with Chryslers? No. The intellectual drama in England is supported by people who can with difficulty support themselves. The rich we have always with us, and so long as we have the rich we shall have rubbish. Let not the reader think that he will defeat my general argument by telling me of some individual millionaire who has subscribed five shillings to a home for superannuated morris-dancers.
One of the chief characteristics of the age is the belief that enjoyment cannot exist at the same time as intellectual effort. The reason that the English theater still lags fifty years behind the English novel is that people dress for it. The Frenchman puts on evening-dress when he goes to funerals; the Englishman dons it when he sets out to enjoy himself. If Englishmen had made a habit of dressing before going into their libraries, Wells and Bennett must have starved. Never mind about swallowtails; a dinner-jacket does the trick.
However full the pit and gallery, empty stalls mean that a play must be taken off. It was the indifference